This paper tells the story of trade-off between hydropower and irrigation and its implications for groundwater use in Syrdarya basin in Central Asia. With the independence of the central Asian republics, this trade-off has become a transboundary issue. Efforts to coordinate bilateral action using integrated water resources management (IWRM) principles of basin-wide cooperation have not yet yielded the hoped for results. This paper shows that there could be a ‘second best’ option of solving at least part of this transboundary problem by ‘banking’ winter flows released for hydropower production in Kyrgyzstan in the underground aquifers of Uzbekistan's Fergana Valley and extracting it for irrigation in the summer months.
Keywords: Groundwater development, Syrdarya River, Transboundary river basin management, Water banking